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OCTOBER 22-23, 2004 8 HESHVAN 5765

Pop Quiz: How old was Abraham when Hashem commanded him to go to Canaan?


"And Abraham went on his sojourns" (Beresheet 13:3)

After Abraham went down to Egypt because of the famine, he came back to the land of Canaan. Rashi says that he stopped off at all the old lodging places in order to pay up his debts. While the simple meaning may be that Abraham had to borrow during the famine and now he could clear up those loans, there is a deeper meaning.

When people saw Abraham leaving Canaan because of the famine, they questioned him, "What happened to Hashem's promise to take care of you during your journey?" The faith in Hashem was weakened due to Abraham's struggling during these years. After Abraham was made wealthy in Pharaoh's palace, Abraham went back to the same people to show them, "Here is the fulfillment of Hashem's promise!" It sometimes takes time to see the Hand of G-d, and Abraham showed people that Hashem will not neglect anyone. That is the "repayment of the debts" that is meant in this chapter. We should all take note of when things are not going the way they should, so that when they are straightened out, we should realize how Hashem works it out for us. Don't forget to "pay up those debts!" Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"And there was quarreling between the shepherds of Abram's flock and the shepherds of Lot's flock." (Beresheet 13:7)

Hashem promised that he would give the land of Israel to the seed of Abraham. The shepherds of Lot (Abraham's nephew) started using private land for grazing of their animals. Rashi explains that this resulted in quarreling between Abraham's and Lot's shepherds. Lot's shepherds claimed that since Abraham had no children, and Lot was Abraham's closest relative, they were allowed to use these lands. Abraham's shepherds answered that it was forbidden until Abraham actually inherited the land.

One form of theft about which people are not so cautious concerns stealing from the public. People are mistaken when they think that it is permitted since they aren't stealing from anyone in particular. Another rationalization is that one might think it is permitted since it also belongs to them. The sefer Pele Yo'ess writes that taking from the public is the worst form of stealing, firstly because one is stealing from many people, and it is almost impossible to return any item that is already consumed to many people. Therefore one must be extra careful as to how he treats public property - whether it be a siddur in the shul or a bench in a courtyard. A G-d fearing Jew will be careful that his dealings with other people - private and public - are carried out with integrity, even if he is in financial distress and his debtors are pouncing on him from all directions. There is no excuse for dubious dealings.

If a person wants to know if he can trust someone, he should observe how the person behaves in business dealings (Sefer Kav Hayashar). If one is careful about every penny that goes through his hands - especially if he is the type of person who does not like to take from others - then he can be trusted. However, seeing him kiss his tefillin in the morning or praying with great concentration is unfortunately not an indication of how a person behaves when it comes to money matters.

Rabbi Y. Zilberstein related that he once saw the Steipler Gaon walking down Rabbi Akiva Street in the direction of his home, and noticed that the Rabbi avoided taking any shortcuts through the courtyards of other buildings. Instead, he went the long way around so as not to make use of another's property without permission. A resident of one of the apartment buildings also noticed this and told the Rabbi that it was fine to walk through the courtyard of the building. However the Steipler disagreed, "I appreciate your consideration, but it is not for you to give me permission. I would need the permission off all the neighbors in the building in order to cut through your courtyard." I think we have no doubt that everyone would have given the permission to have this great Rabbi walk through their courtyard, but he wouldn't go without explicit permission from all. If he wouldn't cut through, then for sure we shouldn't cut through, for perhaps we wouldn't get the consent of everyone involved. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"Please say that you are my sister, that it may go well with me for your sake, and that I may live on account of you." (Beresheet 12:13)

Rashi explains that the statement by Abraham "that it may go well with me" is referring to Abraham's desire that the Egyptians give him gifts. At first glance this seems perplexing, since later on in the parashah, we find that Abraham refuses to take any gifts from the king of Sedom so that he does not say "and I made Abraham wealthy" (chap. 14, verses 22-23). Certainly, in this scenario, Abraham should have refused gifts, so as not to make it appear as though he was bartering his wife to immorality. But our sages teach us that all that happened to our forefathers was a forebear to what was to happen in the future. Abraham knew that his offspring would be exiled to Egypt and ultimately be redeemed; and if he took gifts from the Egyptians, then his offspring would also receive gifts. This was his intent in the spirit of his hesed - to overcome his desire not to take gifts, and take them for the benefit of his children. From this we learn the lesson of how far we must go in our exercise of hesed to our fellow man - as was the excelling pillar of our forefather Abraham. Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Eli Ben-Haim


"And He led him outside and said, 'Look towards the heaven and count the stars if you are able to count them.' And He said to him, 'So shall be your seed" (Beresheet 15:5)

This pasuk can be read as a dialogue between Hashem and Abraham. After he is told to count the stars in heaven, Abraham proceeds to do the impossible and begins to count. Hashem then stops him and says, "Do you really think you can count the stars in heaven? So will be your seed."

Just as you attempted to fulfill My "impossible" command without question, so too will be your seed. They will observe My commandments without seeking a reason or rationale for their fulfillment.

"One's will should not be measured by ability, but rather ability should be measured by one's will." Very often a misvah or a good deed seems very hard to fulfill, either because of lack of time or strength or whatever excuse may arise. If one will make a proper self-evaluation he will see that he is not lacking in ability but rather in proper will and desire to perform the misvah or good deed. (Peninim on the Torah)


Question: Why do we put on the right shoe before the left?

Answer: The right is given more prominence in the Torah. One example is the sprinkling of blood of the mesora's korban, which is done on his right hand and foot. Therefore, the right shoe is put on first in order to attribute more importance to it. (Sefer Ta'amei Haminhagim Umkorei Hadinim)


"Let there not be any strife between me and you...for we are brothers." (Beresheet 13:8)

Rashi teaches that Abraham wanted to avoid an argument with Lot, especially because they looked alike. Why would their similarity in appearance be a reason to avoid quarreling?

Pardes Yosef explains that Abraham was concerned with the impression that their feud would make on others. If Lot did not look like a saddik like Abraham, then people would assume that either Lot was fighting with Abraham because he disliked religious people, or Abraham was at odds with Lot because he was dissatisfied with his irreligious lifestyle. However, now that they both appear as religious people, the outside world will see them arguing and will ridicule them and their religion. Therefore, Abraham was concerned that any dispute between them would cause a desecration of Hashem's name. When a person carries the appearance of a religious Jew, he has the added responsibility of representing Hashem and portraying Him in a good light to others.

Question: Would a person observing you for twenty-four hours be likely to become more or less religious as a result of your actions? Is there anything about you that may not give a good impression of religious Jews, and needs to be improved upon?


This Week's Haftarah: Yeshayahu 40:27 - 41:16.

In the perashah, Hashem explains the path of life that Abraham must take. Hashem tells Abraham to leave everything behind and to follow Him. Abraham has great confidence in Hashem; this enables him to defeat the neighboring kings in battle.

In the Haftarah, the prophet Yeshayahu consoles the people, who think that Hashem has deserted them. The prophet explains that what makes the Jewish people successful is their confidence in Hashem. As long as the people are confident of their relationship with Hashem, they will overcome all obstacles. (Tell it from the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Seventy five.

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